In depth: Two viewers talk at length on gun control regulations
COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News asked viewers to respond to a series of questions concerning gun control after the Orlando shooting brought the topic to the surface. Two viewers shared their beliefs on the former assault weapons ban, background checks and the future of gun control, as well as the personal experiences that shaped those beliefs. (For more of our coverage, read: Viewers share opinions about gun laws, Orlando shooting and Town Square: Analyzing data to answer your questions on guns)
Experience with Guns
Chad Francis retired from the Army three years ago, after spending 25 years close to guns. His time in the Army included marksmanship training for the Missouri National Guard and training armed guards of federal buildings.
Francis said having a gun for protection can prevent massacres like the one in Orlando.
"A guy sitting in a a federal building with a nightstick isn't going to stop someone from coming in there and devastating the place," he said. "You have to fight power with equal power. One or two people in that nightclub that were carry concealed guns could've ended that attack in a matter of seconds."
Karen Reynolds has also been around guns for a large majority of her life. She said her uncles and cousins all had guns growing up, and she's lived with people who had guns in the house. She had hunted and shot targets in the past, but she had never purchased or owned a gun.
Reynolds said she is not against the right to own guns, but she said stricter regulation - not more guns - could prevent potential mass shootings.
"How can it not weigh on anybody that sees that 20 little first-graders were killed in 5-15 minutes?" she asked, referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. "How can it not weigh on me that he was using a legal gun, and did that with a legal gun?"
Assault Weapons Ban
In 1994, the U.S. government passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was in effect until 2004. The ban prohibited the manufacture of assault weapons, a class of semi-automatic firearms, as well as large capacity magazines for guns.
A report from the U.S. Department of Justice said the ban decreased gun crimes involving assault weapons by at least 17 percent and up to 72 percent, depending on the city; however, the report also mentioned there was an increase in crime involving guns other than assault weapons equipped with large capacity magazines.
Francis said the ban was problematic from the start.
"All it really did was hamper law-abiding citizens from gaining weapons that they feel they need to use to protect themselves and their family," he said.
Reynolds said the problem with the law wasn't its intention, but the fact that it expired.
"Ever since 2004, I've felt we aren't doing a good enough job," Reynolds said. "When these things like Orlando happen, it's always a legal gun, and obviously there are too many of them. Too many people have guns who shouldn't have them."
The Firearms Transaction Record, or Form 4473, is the federal application to legally purchase a firearm. The form includes three pages of questions for the customer to fill out, such as, "Are you an alien illegally in the United States?" or "Are you a fugitive from justice?" Both Reynolds and Francis agreed the current background check procedure needs changes.
Reynolds said she wants the experts and politicians to put as much effort into gun control as they did in putting a man on the moon in the 1960s.
"I expect a bunch of people to be locked up and forced by the American public to get us to a safer place here in this country and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them," she said. "The experts on this should sit around for hours and hours, and weeks and weeks, and address mental health and these background checks."
Francis said the issue with the current procedure is a lack of action.
"When someone fills out a 4473, and it comes back that they were denied, we don't do anything to them," Francis said. "We don't prosecute them, we don't arrest them. They tried to illegally purchase a gun, and there's no teeth at all in these gun control rules."
Future of Guns in America
Both Francis and Reynolds have children and said they wanted to do whatever necessary to make the country a safe place for them.
"I have three daughters," Francis said. "From the age of 5, they started learning gun safety. Instead of making it taboo, let them handle it, let them see how powerful a gun is. It'll really bring to light that they are dangerous in the hands of the wrong people."
Reynolds said she doesn't anticipate a solution to gun crimes in her lifetime. When asked if she was concerned that a massacre like the one in Orlando could happen again, she said there was no doubt.
"It could happen tonight," Reynolds said. "They are doing it. Then we light candles and put a bunch of flowers out there, and we go on and insist on denying that we've got a problem."